Mullins Live! concert event ‘welcome distraction’ for younger students at annual Blarney Blowout

  • UMass Amherst senior Jacqui O'Brien talks about her Blarney Blowout plans Saturday at her off-campus Meadow Street apartment in Amherst. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • A UMass Amherst student uses her phone as she makes her way to the Mullins Live! concert March 3, 2018 which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass first-year student Hannah Lee, right, takes a photo of her friends Kimmi LaCroix, left, Brittney Zovko and Morgan Platt, also freshmen, as they make their way to the Mullins Live! concert on campus Saturday, which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst seniors Nick Ward, Darrell Workman and Cameron Beebe talk about their Blarney Blowout plans March 3, 2018 at their off-campus North Pleasant Street apartment in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst students including freshman Zach Williams, dressed in green, at center, make their way to the Mullins Live! concert March 3, 2018 which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst students wait in line for the Mullins Live! concert March 3, 2018 which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst students including first years Kimmi LaCroix, center, and Hannah Lee make their way to the Mullins Live! concert on campus March 3, 2018 which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • UMass Amherst first years Hannah Lee, left, Kimmi LaCroix, Brittney Zovko and Morgan Platt make their way to the Mullins Live! concert on campus March 3, 2018 which serves as an alternative to Blarney Blowout. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

  • Caroline Lucy, a Fordham University senior, second from left, Linsey Andrews, a Boston University senior, Olivia Liberti, also a Boston University senior and Ben Hoffman, a UMass Amherst senior, party March 3, 2018 on the porch of an off-campus Meadow Street apartment during Blarney Blowout in Amherst. —GAZETTE STAFF/SARAH CROSBY

Thursday, March 08, 2018

AMHERST — On a chilly but sun-drenched Saturday, University of Massachussetts students celebrated pre-St. Patrick’s Day in one of two ways: attending the Mullins Live! concert featuring Big Sean, 21 Savage and Goldlink, or gathering in groups of green-clad cheer at off-campus houses in the traditional Blarney Blowout manner.

While such large gatherings in the past have spurred riotous behavior, university officials said the day passed relatively peacefully.

As of 5 p.m., spokeswoman Mary Dettloff said in a statement that Amherst Police, assisted by regional law enforcement and Massachusetts State Police, had responded to eight noise complaints and two reports of fights.

“Officers also dispersed a large gathering near South Prospect Street and Northampton Road,” Dettloff stated. “One person was arrested for assault and battery on a police officer and disorderly conduct, but police say people have been cooperative with officers.”

Overall, the town of Amherst and the university said in the statement that the goal of providing a safe environment without any major disturbances was accomplished successfully.

“A key factor today was the cooperation displayed by students at the Mullins Center concert and off campus,” said Enku Gelaye, vice chancellor for student affairs and campus life.

Off-campus gatherings started in the morning, around the same time other students began lining up outside the Mullins Center. Nick Ward, Cameron Beebe and Darrell Workman, all UMass seniors, were playing a morning game of wiffle ball in the backyard of an off-campus house near Fisher Street with cans of beer in hand around 10:30 a.m.

Workman, sporting a ubiquitous bright green tee shirt, said he purchased his festive wear at Walmart the day before.

“I think Walmart is definitely pandering to this event,” he said.

The three said they weren’t at UMass for the 2014 Blarney Blowout that saw 55 arrests, a heavy police presence that included use of pepper spray and destructive behavior off campus and in the surrounding Amherst community.

“We’ve heard the stories, though,” Ward said. “Absolute anarchy.”

Since they began attending the school, he said, the Blarney Blowout has been much more low-key and many of the students choose to go to the free concert known as Mullins Live! that the university started hosting in 2015 as a diversion from drinking and partying. As seniors, however, he said he and his friends planned to take advantage of their age and backyard.

“We got up around 8:45 this morning and shotgunned some beers, had some shower beers,” Beebe said. “Some people celebrate with Heineken or Guinness.”

They said they didn’t plan on going to the Mullins concert, but were planning on walking around to other off-campus houses and parties to see their friends.

“I definitely think it demotes drinking,” Ward said of the concert. “But as long as you keep the parties under control, the community seems to be fine with it.”

Keeping parties orderly

Around the corner on Meadow Street, a group of people in variations of green gathered on a porch and tossed bean bags at a cornhole set on the front lawn. Across the street, police were seen knocking on doors at the on-campus townhouses and asking groups of people to leave.

The Amherst Police Department said in a statement through UMass that police officers along with regional law enforcement partners and apartment complex security were on duty throughout Amherst and North Amherst neighborhoods for the day.

Measures to cut down on the level of drunken behavior this year included prohibiting parking on campus for the day, prohibiting non-students from entering residence halls and only allowing students to check in four fellow UMass student guests to their residence halls.

The host of the off-campus Meadow Street house, Jacqui O’Brien, was a communications major at UMass who graduated a semester early in December. She said she has been coming for the day’s events since before she even went to the school and that it’s one of her favorite days all year. This time, to celebrate her senior year, she invited eight of her hometown friends from Arlington to join her.

Sipping a mimosa, she said she woke everyone in her house that morning at 7 by playing the Dropkick Murphys’ “Shipping Up to Boston” at full volume.

O’Brien said she loves UMass as a school and a community, adding that her younger brother is a freshman there this year. They planned to meet up later in the day at an off-campus party.

Fifty-three student parties were registered through the Party Smart program, a joint initiative of the police department and the university, according to a UMass release.

O’Brien said police were friendly and courteous and had come to talk with her and to ensure that the group at her house stayed small and orderly.

She said she didn’t have plans to go to the Mullins concert because her out-of-town friends could not attend. However, she said she thinks it’s a good option for younger students to have something fun to do and celebrate.

Welcome distraction

Dettloff said in a statement that about 800 “orderly” students waited in line for the concert doors to open at 11 a.m. and that 5,500 free tickets were distributed to students earlier in the week.

Jess Daum, a freshman in line at the Mullins Center, said she was most excited for the concert.

“If they’re going to have Big Sean for free, I’m there,” she said. “I’m just so excited for this concert. If there are things after, cool. If not, that’s OK.”

Daum and fellow freshman Lisa Farber said they are early risers, but when they woke up that morning around 6 the campus was peaceful, nothing like the stories they had heard of celebrations in years past.

“We’re fully aware that this concert is a distraction,” Farber said, “But it’s a welcome one. We really appreciate that they put this on.”

The university said in a statement that approximately 3,700 students attended the Mullins Live! Concert, where UMass Police placed two students in protective custody.

One of three police officers seen escorting someone from the concert line to a police vehicle around 11 a.m. said the students were behaving well and seemed to be having fun. Two officers on horseback were posted near the line in the morning.

Farther up in the concert line, freshman Evan Mulone also said he was excited to see Big Sean, adding simply, “it’s lit.”

Dettloff said that as of 5 p.m. the Amherst Fire Department triage unit, in conjunction with UMass Emergency Medical Services, had 18 patient contacts at the Mullins Center. Four people were taken by ambulance to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for alcohol-related issues and one for hypothermic symptoms, the statement said, and a sixth student was later transported from a dining commons to Cooley Dickinson to be treated for intoxication.

Last year, seven people were treated at the concert and one was transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital for intoxication, according to the statement.

M.J. Tidwell can be reached at mjtidwell@gazettenet.com.